Your Employees Deserve the Most From Their Health Coverage

Many employees don’t understand or use their health insurance benefits. Learn how a few simple actions can help solve this problem.

Many employees underutilize their health insurance due to confusion, complicated plan documents, and a poor understanding of health insurance concepts. Health insurance illiteracy can also damage employee morale and increase employee attrition. However, employers can foster health literacy through relatively inexpensive health insurance education and outreach. 

Learn how you can help your employees maximize their health insurance benefits in this blog.

The Benefits of Workplace Health Insurance Education

Health insurance in the United States is complex, and the ongoing debate regarding the Affordable Care Act adds further uncertainty and confusion. Therefore, many Americans struggle to make informed decisions about their health. 

Health literacy issues result in:

  • An inability to calculate out-of-pocket medical costs accurately
  • Uninformed medical choices and confusion about medical diagnoses and treatment options
  • Reliance on branding rather than personal health needs and finances when selecting a plan
  • Delayed or avoided medical treatment 
  • Ignorance about how provider networks, deductibles, and co-pays impact medical bills
  • Belief that their employer offers substandard health plans

In other words, health illiteracy leads to frustration and dissatisfaction.

When employees are dissatisfied with their health insurance benefits, they are more likely to consider changing companies — causing poor employee engagement and increased HR costs. Thankfully, health insurance literacy isn’t hard to develop — and it provides demonstrable results. 

Identify Your Employees’ Health Insurance Knowledge Gaps

Before you initiate a health insurance education program, you should carefully assess your employees’ knowledge gaps. You should:

  • Review your employees’ health insurance habits. 
  • Are there underutilized benefits? 
  • Are they avoiding preventive care? 
  • Survey their health insurance literacy.
  • How aware are they of your benefit offerings?
  • Are your current health insurance materials confusing, overly technical, or lacking information?
  • Can you identify themes or common areas of confusion or health illiteracy?
  • Ask questions about their health needs. 
  • Are your employers willing to pay more to have increased health insurance options? 
  • Are there benefits they would prefer over existing offerings?

Once you identify common issues and weaknesses in your current health insurance outreach, you can develop a plan of action. 

Commit to Year-Round Health Insurance Education

While health insurance typically gets the most attention during Open Enrollment, your education program shouldn’t stop when enrollment ends. Your employees might already be overwhelmed with insurance information during their enrollment period — they’re reviewing plans, assessing their needs, and under time constraints. While they need assistance during this time, regular health insurance education reinforces and deepens their health literacy.

You might:

  • Promote underutilized programs and benefits. If your employees aren’t using a benefit, make sure you highlight it in your educational materials. If your health insurance plan significantly exceeds the minimum ACA standards, make sure to point this out to your employees.
  • Educate them about essential benefits. Many employees do not understand that the ACA’s essential benefits (including preventive care services) are fully covered without a co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance payment.
  • Identify seasonal “teachable moments.” For example, before Spring Break, remind employees about how provider networks might (or might not) impact out-of-state medical bills. Or, in the fall, remind employees that, under the Affordable Care Act, flu vaccines are an essential benefit and are fully covered by their insurance plan. 
  • Link your education program to life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child or marriage. For example, when an employee announces a pregnancy or the birth of a child, you might send specific information about pediatric coverage, maternity expenses, and their right to a special enrollment period. (Having a child is a qualifying life event.)
  • Reach out during an employees’ health crisis. You can provide personalized advice and assurance when an employee applies for family medical leave.
  • Build a culture of health. Encourage healthy employees by providing easy access to healthy choices. This may include healthier vending and cafeteria options and onsite health screenings.

This method takes a little more effort than simply sending out plan documents before Open Enrollment, but it demonstrates your dedication to workplace health and your employees. 

Offer Multiple Health Insurance Information Channels

Different people prefer different types of outreach, depending on their age, education, technological abilities, and other factors. Based on your workplace demographics, offer health information resources that speak to your employees. Some employees value in-person meetings, while others want online information. 

Your health insurance education campaign might include:

  • An online health portal containing plan documents and a comparison tool
  • Office hours with an HR representative or health insurance partner
  • Seminars, training sessions, and Q&A events
  • Print and digital publications 

And, while HR typically plays a key role in health insurance issues, consider how other departments and individuals could improve health insurance education. 

For example:

  • Marketing might help develop infographics and appealing content for your education campaign.
  • Workplace health might offer onsite vaccinations, health counseling, and health screenings.
  • Supervisory staff can identify workers who need additional outreach, due to a life event or health concerns.

Ask Your Health Insurance Partners for Help

Your health insurer or healthcare alliance want your employees to benefit as much as possible from their care and coverage, so don’t hesitate to ask for help with your health insurance literacy efforts. Most insurance companies and healthcare alliances have trained professionals on staff that can run onsite training sessions, answer questions, and empower your employees.